Some while ago I posted here about the importance of capability in business growth.
My primary assertion was that an honest evaluation of organizational capability, followed by the successful implementation of changes to address any deficiencies, can often be the determining factor in whether or not you achieve your business goals.
This assessment came to mind again very recently when I was in dialogue with a colleague about why many business founders and owners find it so hard to let go.
Let me be clear about what I mean by let go. I’m talking about the business owner/founder (typically), who currently maintains an active role in everything about their business, letting go of DECISION-MAKING.
Now, I appreciate that for most business owners that act would have profound consequences. Just imagine it for yourself, for a moment (you may want to make sure you are sitting-down). Who could you trust? Who DO you trust – to not screw it up, to make decisions as good as yours, to have the insight or experience or business nous to match yours, etc, etc??
All very fair considerations, of course and I’m not suggesting otherwise. However, when I challenge them to consider what would happen of they did let go, the majority of the business owners I speak to don’t get beyond all the reasons why they can’t. That list of reasons starts with the sort of observations above and, for most, then continues with issues of a more personal nature – such as: “What would I do then?”; “There wouldn’t be a role for me”; “I’d have no control”; etc.
Let your imagination go a bit further, however and other factors may come into view that have a much more positive connotation. For example, there may be some people in your business who are actually better at some things than you are! They may be capable of more strategic thinking, or getting the best out of other people, or negotiating terms, or selling, or creating new products/services, or making decisions, or creating a great place to work, or…… you get the picture?
I don’t know of any business that doesn’t honestly put its success down primarily to its people. It may have started because a founder had a particular insight or idea or passion or steely determination, but once a business gets beyond about 10 people its then down to everyone in it, not just the founder/owner/leader.
That being the reality, surely the key role for the founder/owner/leader thereafter is to get out of the way (mostly) and enable the people they have employed to become the best they can be within that business?
When you do that, you discover what your people are really capable of. In my experience, both within businesses that I have worked in and of those I have worked with and observed, this is where the “secret sauce” is often discovered.
When you establish a culture of trust, openness and accountability, when you positively encourage your people to stretch themselves, to make mistakes without retribution, to openly question and challenge the status quo, to make decisions and choices for which they are comfortable to be held account, then you really open up the latent capability of the organisation.
You discover the ones that will drive your business forward far more effectively than you ever could!
Oh, the pleasant surprise? You still have a very important role!
Your role is now focused on ensuring your key people have:
- A clear sense of purpose and direction for the business
- The right people in the right roles and that they are developing them
- The resources they need to be successful
You have one other important role too that, in the words of Jim Alampi, “only you can do”, which is to get obstacles out of the way of your people.
When you get to that point you will not only have let go – you will also still be in control (enough!).